J.B. spoke with Soledad O’brien the morning of Monday, March 11th. Full video below:
In the wake of several high-profile tragic events, there is a heightened level of sensitivity and awareness in our schools. This has led to countless incidents nationwide involving questionable judgment with respect to discipline issued to elementary school children by teachers and education officials. At least two incidents have occurred recently within our great State of Maryland. I believe these are overreactions by school officials. While the motivations may be genuine, there has been little argument that suspensions for a piece of paper that looks like a “phaser gun” or a Pop-Tart that may have resembled some kind of firearm are overreactions when put in the youthful context of a 6 to 12 year old elementary school child.
This bill entitled “The Reasonable School Discipline Act of 2013”, Senate Bill 1058 sets forth clear, straightforward guidelines on what is and what is not acceptable when handling matters that amount to “children being children”. The bill prescribes an appropriate discipline that must be adhered to during counseling students of all grade levels in any Maryland school that uses public funds. If we wait too long, this type of reaction will become the standard response by school administrators only serving to perpetuate fear amongst our young students, not to mention putting marks on permanent academic records that are neither appropriate nor warranted.
The bill includes a counseling and disciplinary protocol for violations by school administrators. Another key provision makes it impossible for minor incidents such as those in the recent news from being entered into the students’ permanent academic record, unless it involves an upper-school student intent on repeatedly violating school policies with regards to firearms and/or violence. This bill does not alter guidelines for direct acts of violent behavior whether involving firearm facsimiles or other devices.
The resolution is straightforward, easy to understand, and offers the school systems flexibility when dealing with incidents that are clearly more serious. This bill also offers immediate resolution paths for the parent(s); they may appeal expeditiously with their respective school boards.
Full Bill: SB1058_Text
Press Release: SB1058_Press_Release
We are quickly approaching the midway point of the 2013 legislative session. Last week was relatively quiet by Annapolisstandards. The death penalty was the lone exception which showcased another piece of the Governor’s agenda. Maryland law requires that in order to seek the death penalty, the crime must be convicted as First Degree Murder plus an aggravating factor (there are 14 factors.) In 2009, Maryland death penalty laws were revisited and rather than repealing the law, the cases in which it could be imposed required that there be DNA evidence linking the Defendant to the murder, a voluntary videotaped confession, or a video recording of the murder. These provisions insure that the innocent are protected.
This year the Governor, by means of legislation, is making another attempt to repeal the death penalty in its entirety. The committee hearing on SB 276 - Death Penalty Repeal and Appropriation from Savings to Aid Survivors of Homicide Victims,was this past Thursday, and lasted approximately 6 hours. Both sides provided compelling testimony, some was rather disturbing. The death penalty was reinstated in Maryland in 1978. Prior to that time, there were 306 executions in Maryland. Since that time, there have been 5. To put this into perspective, the state of Texas imposed the death penalty sentence on 474 individuals while in California, 721 people have sat on Death Row. These numbers demonstrate that in Maryland, the death penalty is imposed sparingly and judiciously. An overview of the five cases was provided and in each of these cases, there was no uncertainty that the individuals convicted were guilty. The details of each case were so horrific, that it seems unimaginable that any other punishment would have sufficed.
On a less controversial, more parliamentarian note, last week also saw the delivery of the “Green Bag” to theSenate. Under the Maryland Constitution, the Governor nominates and, with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoints all civil officers and officials of the State whose appointment or election is not otherwise provided in the constitution or in the laws. The constitution requires the Governor to submit nominations of civil officers to theSenate of Maryland within 40 days of the start of each regular session.
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The appointments, known as the Green Bag appointments, are submitted in a green leather bag, embossed with the Maryland Great Seal which modeled the green bags used by English barristers to convey official documents. When it is not being used in the annual presentation ceremony, the Green Bag resides at the State Archives.
This year, the list of gubernatorial appointments was delivered in the official Green Bag of Maryland to the President of the Senate on February 15th during the morning session because the 40th day fell on Sunday, February 17th. The Senate Executive Nominations Committee examines all of these nominations. Although Executive Nominations may not always been viewed as a priority, it is one of the many constitutionally mandated responsibilities of the Maryland Senate.
On a personal note, many of you may recall my father had a life-threatening injury due to a fall from a ladder in October 2011. His injuries would have been fatal if not for the investments this State has made in emergency medicine. The quick action of the EMS providers, the swift transportation from the State Police’s Medivac helicopter, and finally the amazing talent of the doctors and nurses of the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, all collaboratively saved my father’s life for which I am eternally grateful.
Initiated by Governor Mandel’s Executive Order in 1973, and later codified by the General Assembly, Shock Trauma is the core element of the state’s emergency medical system. I am honored to have been nominated and now serve on the Board of Visitors for the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center. The Trauma Resuscitation Unit (TRU) is the Center’s “emergency room” and where miracles take place every day. Treating over 8600 critically injured patients a year, Shock Trauma and its TRU facility save the lives of a staggering 97% of its patients. This is truly a world class trauma facility, and we in Maryland, can be proud and grateful for the service and exemplary care they provide to the most critically injured patients in the region.
As a volunteer firefighter and EMT for over 15 years I responded to, treated, and transported numerous patients to various hospitals. Many ended up at Shock Trauma. As a first responder, I witnessed traumatic injuries firsthand when I arrived at the scene. And now, serving on the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Board of Visitors, I had the opportunity to spend a twelve hour shift in the TRU, observing the doctors and nurses and what they do on a daily basis. Dressed in pink scrubs, I stood beside them as they worked to save lives.
That evening, I watched as patients were rushed in from all over the state. I was impressed with how proficient and organized the doctors and nurses were. Just two examples of what I witnessed that evening include the arrival of several auto accident victims who were airlifted from Talbot County, followed by a stabbing victim from Western Maryland who was brought in by ambulance. The experience left me in awe and with a renewed awareness of how vitally important the Shock Trauma Center is to our State. I am honored to be a part of the greatest trauma hospital in the world.
Join Us for 7th District Night
Lastly, I want to remind you that next Monday night, February 25th is the 7th Legislative District Night in Annapolis. Even if you don’t live in the 7th District we’d love to have you here. It will take place from 6:00-8:00 p.m. in the Miller Senate Office Building West 1, President’s Conference Center. The evening will include refreshments, an optional tour of the State House, and the opportunity to observe the Senate and House of Delegates during the Monday evening session. I hope you can make. If you have any questions, please call my office at (410) 841-3706
Senator J.B. Jennings
Week five in Annapolis had the Governor’s most controversial bill take center stage. Senate Bill 281, “Firearm Safety Act of 2013,” had its hearing in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. This hearing brought thousands of people to Annapolis to testify. Published reports had it between 1000 and 4000 people. Regardless of the exact number, there were so many people that entry to the Senate office building was closed due to the buildings capacity hitting the limit imposed by the Fire Marshall. Even though it was clear that the citizens of Maryland felt strongly about voicing their opinions to those making decisions in Annapolis, the Chairman of the committee decided to limit the amount of testimony on each side to only 4 hours. This is an extremely controversial bill and there were thousands of people who took the day off of work, drove hours to testify and waited all day for the chance to voice their opinion. Other contentious bills, such as the Marriage Equality bill, have had hearings go late into the night. Testimony on this bill ended just after 9pm with hundreds still left to testify. The Chairman did allow those left to quickly state their name and their support or opposition to the legislation. That decision to limit testimony was further argued the following day on the Senate floor. Currently we have a rule change pending to assure this never happens again.
Another hot topic last week was the vote on Senate Bill 8, which deals with replacing the aging natural gas lines in the State. There are over 2000 miles of cast iron gas lines running underground all over our state delivering natural gas to both residential and commercial users. This cast iron pipe was installed over 50 years ago. It has become brittle and is constantly breaking. We are facing a major infrastructure collapse. There is seldom a week that goes by that the news doesn’t report a water or sewer line rupture. There are waterlines in Baltimore City that are over 100 years old and made of wood that are still in use today. When the water line breaks it causes an inconvenience, when the sewer line breaks it causes thousands of gallons of raw sewage to find its way to and pollute the Chesapeake Bay. And when the gas line ruptures it causes an explosion. The vote on this bill was not an easy one to take because of the cost associated with a project of this size. The simplest thing to do is vote “no” on any controversial bill. However, I wasn’t elected to take the easy way out on the tough issues. Instead, I am there to do what I believe is right to make our community, our county and our state a better place to live. This bill, although unpopular, is one that makes our state safer. This bill is working to fix a problem and threat. It pushes Washington Gas and BGE to work with the Public Service Commission to begin replacing the corroded, brittle cast iron pipes with the newest Polypropylene piping. Unfortunately this project is not cheap. This bill allows the public service commission to allow these gas companies to tack on a service charge of up to $2 per gas customer. This surcharge will only be on those that have gas service only. I know this is not a popular vote and may disappoint some, however, this is an issue that needs to be addressed and we cannot wait any longer.
Another controversial bill that we debated and voted on in the Senate was SB 74 Vessels – Operating while Under the Influence of Impaired by Alcohol or Drugs. This bill is a correction from legislation that was passed several years ago that exempted rafting and tubing from the law governing the operation of vessels while under the influence of, or impaired by alcohol. The legislation that passed in 2010 inadvertently exempted non-motorized sailboat operators from being held liable if they were intoxicated. The debate on this bill went on for almost an hour. In the end, the bill passed and I voted for it. I understand why the original tubing and rafting bill was passed, however, I believe sailboats are a different issue. I believe that someone who can operate a vessel the size of the Pride of Baltimore that can navigate into the shipping channels should be responsible for doing so safely and without impairment.
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The final bill I want to highlight this week came before the Education, Health and Environmental Committee. The Governor himself came to testify on this legislation that he sponsored. SB 273 Veterans Full Employment Act of 2013 which will help facilitate licensing for active military, veterans and their spouses through the expedited issuance of licenses. Many of these veterans have military training, education and certifications that qualify them for the Maryland licensure. However, due to bureaucratic red tape, these individuals have had to wait months to receive the license or been forced to take unnecessary classes. I thank the Governor for putting this legislation together and look forward to working with him and his cabinet to help our veterans.
Senator J.B. Jennings
Week 4 of the 2013 Legislative Session was punctuated by the Governor’s “State of the State Address” on Wednesday. This speech is given before a joint session of the Legislature and customarily outlines the current condition of the State and lays out the Governor’s legislative agenda. In last week’s Annapolis Update, I provided a list of all of the Governor’s bills. This year’s speech was much the same in regards to it’s compulsory elements, however behind the pretense, many noted that there was an underlying agenda.
It is customary for former Governors to be in attendance, as well as our current Congressional delegation and the Governor’s Cabinet. However, this year was interesting in that among the dignitaries introduced by the Governor, by invitation, he also had several foreign Ambassadors to the United States; Ambassador Darmanovic, Ambassador Schnepf, Ambassador Negodic, Ambassador Al-Rumaihi, and Ambassador Collins. This led some to believe that he was seizing this media opportunity to once again lay the groundwork for his future national political aspirations. That belief was further perpetuated by his proposals for stricter gun legislation which are seemingly parallel to the President’s national directive.
On the legislative front the bills continue to be filed and committee hearings are being conducted. In the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, SB 10 was heard. This bill proposes a partially elected school board for Baltimore County. It has been brought up for the past several years. Last year, I co-sponsored legislation proposing similar parameters be implemented in the election of school board members. Unfortunately the bill was prefilled this year by Senator Zirkin so I was not able to co-sponsor it. As in the past, I support this legislation and am hopeful that this year we can get it passed. This will allow voters the opportunity to choose their own representatives on the board rather than being represented by the Governor’s political appointments.
The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on HB 78. This bill is in response to the recent Court of Appeals’ decision in the case Tracey v. Solesky, which held that pit bulls are inherently dangerous. It held that their owners and others who have the right to control the dog’s presence on the premises (such as landlords) are strictly liable for the resulting damages. This bills intent is to abrogate the holding of the Court of Appeals in Tracey v. Solesky, No. 53, September Term 2011.
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As we look ahead to Annapolis this week, Maryland’s capital city will be host to two major events. The first is the United States Senate Democratic Caucus meeting. President Obama will be attending the second day of this two day meeting which is taking place today and tomorrow.
Also tomorrow the Governor’s legislation dealing with gun control, SB281 will have a hearing in the Judicial Proceedings Committee. Hundreds of citizens are expected to show up to testify on both sides of the issue. I would like to give a little information to those who plan on coming down.
The hearing is expected to start at 1pm and last into the late evening. ANYBODY can sign up to testify. If you would like to testify, you need to add your name to the sign-up sheet located just outside the Judicial Proceedings Committee room prior to 12 noon. I have spoken personally to the Chairman of the Committee about how he is going to conduct the hearing. With so many people expected to show up, he is going to limit testimony to 3 minutes per person. If turn out is larger than expected he may limit it to two minutes of testimony. Please know that you can submit as much written testimony as you would like, but you will need to provide 25 copies. Chairman Frosh also told me the testimonies will alternate between the opponents and proponents of the bill every hour. The Senate Conference rooms will be open for overflow seating with proceedings being aired live, so if you can’t get into the committee room, you can still watch the real time proceedings. The Chairman will announce who is next to testify in advance, allowing those waiting in the conference room enough time to report to the committee room.
I understand this is a very emotional issue. I ask that we all use respect and decorum when testifying.
Parking is available at the following locations:
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(Walk or take a trolley to the Senate)
Sean Kammer, my Policy Director will be available should you have any questions or need any additional information. Be sure to bring photo ID to get through security.
As always feel free to contact me should you have any questions or concerns.
Senator J.B. Jennings
Last week was the 3rd week of the 2013 legislative session. In an average legislative session, approximately 2500 bills are introduced between the House and the Senate. As of Friday, there were 385 bills submitted in the Senate and 400 in the House. The Governor has submitted all of his Administration’s legislation. Last week I mentioned his two pieces of legislation that dealt with gun control and the death penalty. In addition to those he has also introduced the following bills:
SB 273- Veterans Full Employment Act of 2013. This bill expedites licensure for education and work training for former members of the military with relevant military training.
SB 274- Maryland Health Progress Act of 2013.This bill expands eligibility requirements for the Maryland Medical Assistance Program and the definition of “independent foster care adolescent” to conform to federal eligibility requirements.
SB 275- Maryland Off-shore Wind Energy Act of 2013. This bill mandates a certain percentage of our energy portfolio to be derived from wind power. In order to do so, the Governor has proposed we place an off-shore wind energy farm along the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
SB 277- State Aid for Public Education – Certification of Net Taxable Income . This bill redefines “net taxable income” in order to calculate how much State aid is given to the school system.
SB 278- Maryland Employment Advancement Right Now (EARN) Program. The Maryland EARN Program provides grants to business owners for business development. The grants are to be administered by the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation and the Department of Business and Economic Development.
SB 279- Election Law- Improving Access to Voting. This Bill allows an individual to register to vote or update their registration at early voting locations. The Bill requires proof of residency when updating or registering to vote at an early polling place.
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This session will also have several additional topics that are sure to attract a lot of attention in Annapolis.
Speed Cameras – Three years ago the Legislature passed the speed camera law. It was controversial then and has only got worse since the problem with the cameras in Baltimore City came to light. There are numerous bills trying to address the problems with these cameras.
Transportation Funding – The past few years’ money has been siphoned away from the transportation trust fund in order to balance the State’s budget. This has left the account in an unhealthy state, with fund levels well below what is needed in order to maintain, improve and construct new highway projects. There will be intense debate on how to deal with this issue and restore the transportation fund.
Fracking – Currently there is a moratorium on Fracking in Western Maryland until an environmental study is conducted. Proponents see the potential rich gas reserves bringing jobs and economic boom to Western Maryland. The opponents fear the environmental impact it could cause. There will extensive debate in the Environmental Committees dealing with this issue.
Pit Bulls – A court ruling last year calling pit bulls “inherently dangerous” created legal nightmare for dog owners, landlords and insurance companies. Since the court ruling a committee has been meeting to discuss how to handle the issue and whether or not a single breed can be singled out.
As we look ahead to week four, Legislators will continue to submit their bills in order to meet the filing deadline of February 1st. Committees will begin to hold hearings on bills and start voting on legislation. The Governor will present his “State of the State Address” on Wednesday at noon to a Joint Session of the Legislature in the House of Delegates chamber.
As always I will do my best to keep you informed and don’t ever hesitate to contact me with your concerns.
Senator J.B. Jennings
Join Senator J.B. Jennings and Delegates Impallaria, Delegate McDonough, and Delegate Szeliga for District 7 Night in Annapolis on Monday, February 25, 2013 in the Miller Senate Office Building, President’s Conference Center (11 Bladen Street, Annapolis 21401) 6:00 – 8:00 pm.
- State House Tour
- Evening Reception
- Observe the Senate and House proceedings with your District 7 Delegation
This event is for anyone interested in discussing state issues that are before the Maryland General Assembly this year. You are welcome to attend any or all portions of the evening.
For further details, please contact my office at 410-841-3706 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Photo identification is required for enternce into the State Buildings. Drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be served. No RSVP is required.
Last week, the gavel ceremoniously dropped, calling to order the 433rd session of the Maryland General Assembly. For the next 90 days, our Legislature will take up issues encompassing simple procedural items, important budget considerations and of course socially divisive proposals, some of which are drawn on ideological and party lines. By April 8th, Maryland will have a budget for the coming year and another set of laws that will direct the state and its people.
Without a doubt, the most heated issue is going to be gun control. After the horrific Newtown, Connecticut and other high-profile tragedies, President Obama and Governor O’Malley are pushing for legislation that has little, if any chance, of solving the issue of violence anywhere. The Governor is going to push for a ban on certain types of semi-automatic firearms as well as placing limits on magazine capacities.
The problem I have with the Governor’s plan is that it remains one-dimensional, politically motivated, and does little to explore the complex roots of the issue. Mental health, among other factors should be given a high level of consideration. The one common factor in all of these high profile incidents is mental health. Addressing the core behavioral factors which leads individuals to commit violent acts and treating them should be our focus. If we are going to talk about the problem, then let’s talk about the real issues and not just what is politically expedient and easy to digest. I will stand up and protect our 2ndAmendment rights and I am committed to this issue.
The other hot-button issue of this session is capital punishment. The Governor has long stated that he wants to repeal the death penalty, and now there is word of an attempt to short-circuit the legislative process to force a vote on the Senate floor. This is part of a “by any means necessary” strategy that we have seen time and time again with this administration. As a legislative matter, I feel strongly that there are some crimes so heinous that the death penalty has to be an option under the law. I firmly believe that upholding Maryland’s death penalty laws will send a strong message that some crimes deserve the ultimate punishment. No person that walks into a school and murders innocent children and teachers deserves life in prison with three square meals a day and recreation time.
Finally, the perennial rush to generate a balanced budget will undoubtedly occupy the Maryland General Assembly once all other matters are put aside. Fiscal accountability seldom gets the priority that its constitutional mandate warrants. This year’s formula calls for a 4.3% increase in spending totaling a staggering $37.3 Billion dollars. If the income levels in the state have not increased at this rate, then from where all this money going to come? More importantly, when many of us have had to cut back our personal budgets, why is the only answer in Annapolis to raise spending? Maryland’s monopoly party cannot continue to tax and spend with no regard for the consequences. This state doesn’t just have a spending problem, it has a spending crisis.
In closing, I urge you to make your voice heard and your opinions known. I represent you, and will keep you informed of what is happening in Annapolis via weekly email updates. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to call or email my office with any questions or concerns you may have at (410) 841-3706 or email@example.com
Senator J.B. Jennings
ROCKVILLE, Md. — Days before the busiest travel day of the year, a bipartisan pair of Maryland lawmakers unveiled a measure aimed at curbing a dangerous trend that some worry is making flying more dangerous. The proposal announced today would take aim at a growing threat to aircraft—laser pointers being used by individuals on the ground to temporary blind pilots in flight. In a bill that is prefiled for the 2013 legislative session, Delegate Sam Arora (D-Montgomery) and Senator J.B. Jennings (R-Harford & Baltimore Cos.) seek stiffer penalties for people who shine laser pointers into aircraft cockpits, often resulting in flashblindness that renders a pilot temporarily unable to control the aircraft.
“Today’s run of the mill laser pointers are widely available and dangerously powerful,” Del. Arora said. “They are blinding pilots and creating life-threatening situations. We have an opportunity here to make flying Maryland’s skies safer for everyone.”
In addition to flashblindness, a laser strike in an aircraft cockpit can cause disorientation and eye injuries for the flight crew. In February 2011, pilots flying a 50-ton Southwest Airlines jet with more than 130 people on board were blinded during landing at BWI by a green laser. They managed to safely land the jet before being rushed to the hospital with eye injuries.
In recent years, first-responder pilots throughout Maryland have been temporarily blinded while conducting searches or conducting medevac flights, including high-profile incidents in Montgomery County, Mt. Airy, Baltimore County, Carroll County, and Wicomico County.
“I have been flying planes for 19 years, and there is no time more critical for a pilot than takeoff and landing,” Sen. Jennings said. “Blinded pilots create a danger for everyone onboard and on the ground.”
The proposed legislation would carry a penalty of up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Current law only permits for a $500 fine for “misuse of a laser pointer”.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reports that laser-related incidents affecting aircrafts are on the rise and increased nearly 300% between 2008 and 2011. In 2011, 63 laser-related incidents in Maryland were reported to the FAA, including eight strikes against Maryland State Police helicopters.
The proposal is identical to one previously introduced by Del. Arora that passed the House of Delegates in March but ultimately failed to reach a vote in the state Senate during the final hours of the regular legislative session, when a budget showdown between the two chambers effectively killed scores of bills that were scheduled for votes.
The Arora-Jennings bill is modeled after legislation recently passed in other jurisdictions in response to the laser pointer phenomenon. At least a dozen states and many more local jurisdictions have enacted laws against offensive use of laser pointers. In 2010, Ocean City passed an emergency law banning laser pointer sales to and possession by minors and barred most outdoor use of laser pointers.
From the FBI: Making a Point About Lasers:
Last Monday, the Secretary of State finalized the wording of several key referendum questions to appear on Maryland ballots this November.
While much of the focus this election cycle will be on the race for the Oval Office, Marylanders have a chance to weigh in on a number of important issues that will directly affect our State. These include same-sex marriage, the DREAM Act, Congressional re-districting lines, and gaming expansion. The vote on these questions could have a huge impact on our State. I’d like to provide you with some information to help you make a well-informed vote in November.
The Maryland State Board of Elections has posted the ballot questions to its website. You can view them by clicking here. Here’s a brief synopsis of the issues that the questions address:
Questions 1, 2, and 3 involve amendments to the Maryland Consitution. They address qualifications for orphans’ court judges and procedures that dictate when an elected official can be suspended from office.
Question 4 refers to the in-state tuition bill from 2011 that was referred to as the DREAM Act. This bill would make undocumented immigrants eligible to receive in-state tuition rates if they meet certain requirements, such as filing tax returns and demonstrating the intent to gain permanent residency.
Question 5 concerns changes to Maryland’s Congressional District boundary lines, as proposed in 2011. Where these boundaries are drawn is crucial for ensuring effective, appropriate political representation. You can view an interactive map of the proposed changes and how they will affect you by clicking this link.
Question 6 focuses on same-sex marriage. This bill would amend Maryland’s current marriage laws to allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license.
Question 7 asks about gaming expansion. The bill it refers to would authorize casinos to operate table games, increase the total number of video slot machines allowed in the State, and allow a new casino to open in Prince George’s County.
Even in the midst of a crucial Presidential election, these are issues that Marylanders should pay close attention to. I hope that no matter how you decide to vote in November, you’ll take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the referendum questions, as well as the wording presented on the ballots.
Feel free to contact my office with any concerns you may have. These are complex issues, and my staff and I would be happy to address any questions you may have about them.